How To Use The Next 4 Weeks To Do Something Life-Changing In 2013

Brunette woman with maple leaves

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December is a crazy little month.

It is a month of highs and lows. Stress and relaxation. Endings and beginnings.

The build-up to the holidays is a mixed bag of joy in the season, anxiety over money, closeness with family, sadness over loss, stress and over-commitments, relaxation with time off from work, over-indulgence with food, and memories of the year past.

As the holiday comes to a close, as the year is ending and winter is truly descending, December dishes out a bit of melancholy sparked with a dab of hope that the year to come will be better. That you will be better. That life will be better.

In the flurry after Thanksgiving, I know it’s hard to focus your attention on the New Year. But I invite you to think on it a bit now as you read this post. I invite you to think about how you can use the next four weeks to prepare yourself.

Take a moment now and ask yourself these questions:

  • Who do you want to be in 2013?
  • How do you want your life to be different?
  • How can you live more in alignment with your values?
  • How can you love yourself more?

The process of becoming, evolving, changing, growing, creating, improving — these involve some thought, introspection, and planning.

So take this idea and wrap it up in a little box to give yourself as an early Christmas present:

You have hereby received from yourself the gift of an hour a week in December to prepare for one life-changing new habit in 2013.

Of course you might do more in 2013, but all you need now is one. One new habit, one positive life change, will provide a cornucopia of self-esteem, fulfillment, pride, and happiness. But as you know, change takes work. That’s why you need to prepare for it.

If you decide to offer yourself this gift of an hour a week for preparation, here are some suggestions for how you can put that time to positive use in order to set yourself up for success in the New Year.

Week 1: Choose

You may have a million ideas about what you want to achieve in 2013. Maybe you want to lose weight, start an exercise program, commit to writing, learn a language, begin to meditate.

This week, select one (just one) habit you want to create. Since you might be new to this, and forming habits is difficult (as you know), choose something small and easy. Rather than committing to a full exercise regimen, select one thing you will focus on — like running or doing a simple weight work-out. Instead of over-hauling your entire diet, make one positive change — like adding an extra serving of vegetables to your daily meals.

When you start your new habit in January, you will begin with only 5 minutes a day for the first couple of weeks. That will help you acclimate to this new habit without it being hard and overwhelming. So choose something that you can limit to five minutes in the beginning.

Week 2: Plan

Once you have decided on the habit you wish to create, you need to plan the time of day you will work on it. Your habit work should immediately follow a “trigger.” This is an already-established habit that you do regularly, like brushing your teeth or making coffee in the morning. You want to attach your new habit to this trigger so that you will be reminded to work on the habit immediately after the trigger.

Consider your trigger carefully. It needs to be at a time of day where you can insert this new habit without disruption or difficulty. You will eventually expand your time with this new habit from 5 minutes to however long you will ultimately be pursuing it. So keep that in mind.

You will also want to set up a reward system for yourself. This may sound silly, but it is highly effective in habit creation. As soon as you finish the habit work, give yourself something that feels like a reward. Maybe it’s listening to music for 5 minutes or giving yourself a piece of dark chocolate. Many people find that putting gold stars on a calendar and watching the calendar fill up with stars is really satisfying.

So this week, plan your habit trigger and reward system.

Week 3: Ensure

One of the best ways to ensure you follow through on creating a new habit is by having some form of accountability. This means you can’t keep your habit work to yourself as an escape plan.

You need to set up a system of accountability before January so you are prepared with it once you begin your habit. Your accountability system could be a friend or family member to whom you report after your habit work. It could be daily comments on social media or an email to a group.

There are many support groups and forums online for just about any activity. So you could join one of those and report your habit work to them every day.

Whatever you decide, just make sure someone is watching you and paying attention to your work (or failure to work) on your habit.

Week 4: Anticipate

No matter how much planning you do, there will always be situations that can derail your habit work. You might get sick. You might have to travel. You might discover the timing of your habit isn’t working out. Someone close to you might have a problem with it.

This week, think about some of the possibilities that might disrupt your habit work. How can you work around those? What can you do to minimize the possibility they will occur? Where do you need to be flexible?

Come up with possible alternatives as a back-up plan. Communicate with people in your life who might be affected by your habit work. Begin to arrange your schedule to make room for your habit work.

By anticipating in advance, you can minimize the possibility of problems once you start working on your habit in January.

If you take the time in December to prepare with these four actions, you will greatly increase the likelihood of succeeding in a life-changing habit formation. As you know, most exercise commitments fizzle out by the end of January. Most goals remain unaccomplished well before year-end.

But a little preparation and an understanding of how sustainable habits are formed will go a long way in allowing you to become the person you want to be in 2013.

If you would like some assistance in creating habits for 2013, please note that we are offering a $100 discount on The Habit Course Self-Study Program with me, Leo Babauta, and Katie Tallo. The discount is available this week only (November 26-December 3, 2012). This Course will offer you everything you need to create sustainable habits for life. You can check it out here:

The Habit Course

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  1. I love December! So many emotions! I like planning changes for the new year. It’s really great and inspiring to start something new right from the beginning of a year.

    Thanks Barrie for this great post and such a reminder that the year is almost gone.

  2. This post is very timely because i enjoy doing a review of the past year and making some plans for the new one coming. I really want to investigate my values and incorporate them in!

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Good for you Catherine. Starting with your values is the best place to begin. It gives you parameters.

  3. This is a great, practical approach to developing new positive habits. I appreciate that you share tips grounded in behavioral science.

    I do wonder a bit about how practical it is to always have a new habit linked to a specific trigger. There’s only so many triggers that are truly automatic, like brushing our teeth. If I like to exercise in the afternoon, there may not be a convenient trigger to link to. Perhaps there are some alternative ways to make habit adoption easier even when an obvious trigger isn’t available?

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      The trigger aspect of habit formation is hugely important. It really helps your brain adapt to making the habit automatic. Your trigger could be coming home from work or going to the restroom in the afternoon. You’d be surprised at the number of automatic habits you already have if you start to think about it. :)

  4. I do need to do this…been toying with it but not fully commited.
    I need to do weekly meal planning and grocery shopping. The importance of this is 80% financial, and 20% comfort. So I have already mentally picked my project and my “trigger”. I’m ready for 1/1/13

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      That is a good habit Dawn — but it isn’t a daily habit. Is it something you could work on every day? For example, could you plan one meal a day for the following week?

  5. Thank you very much Barrie, you never fail to deliver. And this is an especially sweet post for me as my birthday is January 4 and I’ve always been aware I have to deal with all the issues you mentioned here, in this part of the year. December can be intense, and it helps to see it in writing that someone understands and has a few words of practical wisdom for making the required changes in our life and finally handling things. Please do keep it up.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Thank you so much for your kind words Ishan. Your birthday is at an important time for you! It would be a great start date for a new habit. :)

  6. These are all time actions ,why only in december?

  7. Its so hard to pick just one habit to form when I feel there is so much I want to be and achieve. Maybe I might get in the habit of accepting myself the way I am and loving myself exactly as I am.
    Probably not, I want to change and be better and have better things and better habits in my life.
    Getting older does not help, it only seems to make me feel I am running out of time and better get cracking on being better NOW before its too late.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      Lois, I promise that taking one small habit at a time is the best way to go about it. Creating sustainable habits takes practice. It generally takes 4-6 weeks to form a habit depending on how hard it is. But just think, you could create 4-6 new habits a year. That’s a huge accomplishment.

  8. @Lois we are NEVER too old to be a better Self. I saw an interview with Jane Fonda who said she finally found herself at 59.

    I think that building one habit at a time is key to all those things that we seek. I know for me whenever I accomplish something (like hanging a curtain rod all by myself) it builds my confidence just a bit more.

    You are so in the right place to gather those steps one at a time… :)

  9. Thank you Barrie, you are serving as my mentor with your blogs. I love reading your very helpful write-ups. How I wish you can be my accountability partner this 2013 as I form a healthy habit. Thank you so much.

    • Barrie Davenport says:

      That is so kind Charlotte. If you begin a new habit, you are more than welcome to report to me every week! :)

  10. Well, I kind of concidered it daily, since I actually have to prepare those said meals daily. there have been many times I have planned and purchased and yet still did not prepare those meals, and ended up wasting food.

    I am hoping this creates a habit that becomes less of a chore. Still needs a little fine tuning.

  11. veronica wambui says:

    Thank you Barrie for the tips on starting a habit. Pray that i will be disciplined enough to keep up and actually succeed. I really love your blogs, they help me to know that all is not lost.

  12. Thank you for the post Barrie. December is the perfect time to get everything in order to make 2013 the best year of your life. The biggest part is believing in yourself enough to keep the momentum going!

  13. great post barrie.